Maxar satellite imagery BEFORE the Nova Kakhovka Dam damage in Ukraine. Please use: Satellite image (c) 2023 Maxar Technologies.
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WASHINGTON — An international team of investigators said in a new report Thursday that “Russian forces likely deliberately destroyed” the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine.
“We found that there is a high probability that the collapse of the dam was caused by pre-emplaced explosives positioned at critical points within its structure,” explained Catriona Murdoch, a lawyer and expert on crimes related to hunger
Murdoch, who was part of one of the first delegations to arrive at the site, added that attacking the dam could amount to a war crime.
“Dams may not be attacked when the release of water would lead to severe losses to the civilian population. Even valid military objectives located on or near dams may not be attacked if the effect would be to cause severe civilian population losses,” Murdoch said.
Both Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the dam explosion.
The early attack on the Russian-held dam unleashed the worst ecological disaster in Ukraine’s history since the 1986 Chornobyl meltdown. More than 80 settlements in the Kherson region were flooded, and at least 27 people died, according to Ukraine Interior Minister Igor Klymenko.
Yousuf Syed Khan, a senior lawyer at Global Rights Compliance who worked on the investigation, said the destruction of the dam had created “a terrible hunger crime” in the Kherson region.
“The reverberating effects of this attack are undoubtedly massive, far-reaching, and multigenerational, as entire industries and livelihoods related to agribusiness have been severely impacted,” Khan said.
The team of investigators, made up of lawyers, military experts and researchers, said Russian forces also targeted flooding evacuation points and restricted citizens from leaving areas there is a rising tide.
The report was released by the Mobile Justice Team, a part of the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Groupfunded by the US State Department, the European Union and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.